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Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 4-18-14

Headlines:
On Tax Day, Alliance Calls for End to Corporate Tax Loopholes
Social Security to Stop Collecting Relatives’ Old Debts by Intercepting Tax Refunds
City of Detroit Reaches Preliminary Bankruptcy Deal Involving Pensions
Corporate-Backed Debt Reduction Group Facing Money Troubles
Commemorations Mark Centennial of Ludlow Massacre
Fiesta Addresses Machinists
Just Over a Week until Start of National Membership Conference in Las Vegas


On Tax Day, Alliance Calls for End to Corporate Tax Loopholes
In honor of this week’s Tax Day, the Alliance asks members to contact Congress and demand the end of two huge tax loopholes that benefit giant corporations. Congress is expected to return from its break and take up a bill that would renew $80 billion in tax breaks for corporations that move profits and jobs offshore. If you have not already done so, please sign the petition to Congress here: http://bit.ly/1gyoMgp. While corporations were dodging taxes, their CEO’s were taking in outrageous salaries. Find out how much CEO’s are making compared to workers at the AFL-CIO’s Executive Paywatch site: http://bit.ly/1jL2ZG7.

“If we can get Congress to end these loopholes, we'll be taking a tremendous step, and showing elected officials that we're watching to see if they're supporting the biggest corporations – or the people they represent,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance.

Social Security to Stop Collecting Relatives’ Old Debts by Intercepting Tax Refunds
In the wake of revelations about its efforts to collect on old debts, Acting Social Security Administration Commissioner Carolyn Colvin announced that the agency will stop attempts to collect taxpayer debts dating back more than 10 years. The Washington Post revealed that thousands of taxpayers expecting refund checks had received letters informing them that the Treasury Department had intercepted their refunds in order to cover debts that many of them never knew existed. The debts, often incurred by parents, were the result of Social Security benefit over-payments, sometimes dating back decades.  This debt collection effort was the result of a provision placed into the farm bill three years ago.

The decision to suspend collection came after hundreds of taxpayers, whose refund checks had been intercepted, contacted members of Congress complaining that they been given no notification of the debt and no explanation as to why they were responsible for the debts of their deceased parents. For more details on the announcement go here: http://wapo.st/1mdGYk6.

“It doesn’t make sense for the Social Security Administration to confiscate taxpayers’ refunds to cover old debts created by their relatives,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. 

City of Detroit Reaches Preliminary Bankruptcy Deal Involving Pensions
On Tuesday, Detroit’s emergency manager Kevyn Orr announced that deals had been reached on pension cuts for 23,000 workers and retirees. The city of Detroit is currently attempting to emerge from the largest municipal bankruptcy in the nation’s history, and pension cuts have been proposed as a step towards addressing the city’s $10 billion in unfunded liabilities. The first agreement, with the Retired Detroit Police and Fire Fighters Association, would avoid cuts to current pension benefits altogether but involve a nearly 50% reduction in cost of living increases. The other agreement, with the General Retirement System, would involve a 4.5% reduction in benefits and the complete loss of cost-of-living adjustments. Though painful, the cuts are significantly less severe than Mr. Orr’s original plan, which would have seen cuts of up to 34% for most retirees and 14% for police and fire workers. The pension deals are in part the result of $816 million in funding provided by the state, private foundations, and the transfer of city-owned artwork to the Detroit Institute of Arts. Workers and retirees affected by the agreements will still have to approve the measures before they go into effect.

Corporate-Backed Debt Reduction Group Facing Money Troubles
Politico reports that The Fix the Debt Coalition, a group calling for debt reduction through cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, is itself exhibiting signs of increasing financial strain. The organization recently terminated a year long, $200,000 relationship with Mehlman Vogel and Castagnetti, a DC lobbying firm. This is the second firm the Fix the Debt Coalition has dropped in the last month and comes on the heels of revelations of financial trouble at the organization earlier this year.

“Clearly, people value their Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits enormously,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “I believe the leaders of ‘Fix the Debt’ under-estimated the importance of those programs to millions of seniors when they set out to cut them.”

Commemorations Mark Centennial of Ludlow Massacre
Sunday will mark the 100th anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre, the most violent incident of the southern Colorado Coal Strike and an event seen as a turning point in the American labor movement. The Massacre occurred after striking miners organized by the United Mine Workers of America were evicted from company-owned housing and took up residence in tents just outside of Ludlow, Colorado. On April 20th, 1914, Colorado militiamen, company guards, and hired strike breakers began firing on the camp and setting the striking miners’ tents on fire. During the Massacre, at least 20 people were killed, including a group of women and children who suffocated when the tent in which they had taken shelter went up in flames. The horror is widely seen as bringing increased national attention to labor issues, including working conditions, safety, and worker representation. In commemoration of the Massacre’s centennial, events are being held throughout Colorado. To get involved, you can find a complete listing of these events at http://bit.ly/1r2q6gx. You can connect to the Ludlow Centennial Commemoration on Facebook and learn more about the fallen miners and their families at https://www.facebook.com/Ludlow100. Alliance member Dennis Creese recently covered the issue on KGNU at http://bit.ly/RsMF3K.

Fiesta Addresses Machinists
Mr. Fiesta was in Placid Harbor, Maryland on Wednesday to speak at the Machinists Union Political Training and Education Seminar.

Just Over a Week until Start of National Membership Conference in Las Vegas
It is not too late to register for the Alliance for Retired Americans 2014 National Membership Convention at Bally’s Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 28 through May 1. Workshops are slated to include State Battles: Fighting Back Against ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council); Seniors/Retirees Re-entering the Workforce; Messaging for the 2014 Midterm Elections and Beyond; and several others! More info is at http://bit.ly/1hYpj0g.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://tinyurl.com/pysgs9n .

For the Alliance's Spanish language page, which includes last week's Friday Alert in Spanish, go to www.alianzadejubilados.org

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